An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the egg implants outside of the uterus, usually (about 99%) in the fallopian tube (the tube that usually guides the egg from the ovary to the uterus). If the egg is not properly in the uterus, it will not have sufficient room to grow. If not properly diagnosed, the expectant mother can experience severe and life-threatening hemorrhage (bleeding). Babies rarely survive ectopic pregnancies.
Risk Factors For Ectopic Pregnancies
Ectopic pregnancies make up about 1% of all pregnancies. Doctors and nurses should be aware of the risk factors for ectopic pregnancies, which include:
- Prior ectopic pregnancy
- Pregnancy while using an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control
- Pregnancy following tubal ligation (“having your tubes tied”)
- Damaged or unusually shaped fallopian tube
- Fertility problems or use of certain fertility drugs
- Inflammation of the fallopian tubes
- Infection of the uterus, ovaries or fallopian tubes
Symptoms for Ectopic Pregnancies
Doctors should always be on the lookout for ectopic pregnancies, though more so when any risk factors are present. Some signs and symptoms of ectopic pregnancies include:
- Pelvic/lower abdominal pain
- Vaginal bleeding
- Adnexal mass that is often tender
- Small uterus for gestational age
- Bleeding from the cervix
If the ectopic pregnancy has ruptured, a patient may be unresponsive, have low blood pressure, or show signs of abdominal tenderness. Doctors can perform some laboratory studies, including something known as a beta human chorionic gonadoptropin level, which is would show low for the gestational age and would not increase at the expected rate. Finally, ectopic pregnancy can be diagnosed by ultrasound, though there is a risk of misdiagnosis if the mother is carrying multiple children.
Treatment For Women With Ectopic Pregnancies
If the ectopic pregnancy has ruptured (meaning that the fallopian tube has burst), the mother must be stabilized with intravenous fluids and blood products. Emergency surgery is usually required to stop the bleeding and remove the pregnancy. If that surgery is not timely performed, or if it is improperly performed, the mother may die from loss of blood. If there has been no rupture, patients can be treated surgically or with methotrexate, a drug used to medically abort the pregnancy.
Ectopic Pregnancy Birth Injuries
Occasionally, doctors misdiagnose normal pregnancies as ectopic. If they do so and choose methotrexate therapy, the baby may survive the procedure, albeit with severe defects that could include a missing rectum, uterus, and a malformed spinal cord. Or, the methotrexate may abort the healthy, viable baby. A second opinion advisable when ectopic pregnancy is diagnosed to be sure.
If you or a loved one has had an ectopic pregnancy, or your doctors misdiagnosed a normal pregnancy as ectopic, contact our medical malpractice lawyers at (440) 252-4399 or online for a free consultation. We can evaluate your medical records and determine whether your doctors were negligent.